Alila Fort Bishangarh defining heritage hotels in Jaipur
Design & Facilities
Perched on top of a granite hillock in the midst of a vast expanse of the Aravalli Range, surrounded by hills dotted with havelis, villages and temples, Alila Fort Bishangarh is legendary amongst heritage hotels in Jaipur for the adaptive reuse of a 230-year-old warrior fort into one of India’s most unique heritage properties.
Sustainable design was the core commitment of the team. Extensive research and care were taken to develop a design vocabulary that fully embraced the original structure and its place in history. Design ideas of the past were encapsulated in a way that served today’s needs best. Taking the cue from what was found in the ruins, local traditional materials were used in a modern adaptation, to make it accessible (and applicable) for the younger generation, yet still connecting them to their roots.
All windows, entrance portals, arches, columns, railings, jaali screens (latticed window patterns), turrets and walls had to be fully in sync with the original. Broken elements were recreated, finishes emulated, and old pieces reused. Of the 100,000 sq ft area of the fort, only 30,000 sq ft is covered in marble, while the rest is finished in local sandstone. According to historical records, this was once the residential abode for various kings, which explained the more stately decoration. Two of these royal quarters now house the main restaurant Amarsar, named after the birthplace of the royal Shekhawat clan.
The design concept embraces elements of Jaipur Gharana architecture, featuring Rajput and Mughal influences. A perfect example of this can be seen in the ‘Amarsar’ restaurant, where Tudor and Cusped arches harmoniously coexist - aptly styled for a warrior fort. The walls have been finished not with paint but with modern adaptations of the traditional surkhi (stone dust) and araish, the dying Rajasthani plastering art that results in glistening surfaces.
From the very start, simplicity was sought. Rather than creating an ornate palace, as might be expected of a Rajasthani heritage property, the design direction is decidedly stark and spartan, marked by clean and uncluttered interiors judiciously woven with Rajasthani elements – Jharokha-style windows, stone Jaali work, brass embossed panels, Tarkashi (the craft of brass wire designs inlaid in wood), hand block printed fabric, old-style doors and wall frescoes with Thikri mirror work. Local marble, granite, carpets, fabrics, artefacts, lighting and furniture all contribute to authenticate its adaptive reconstruction.
The result is a fortress that remains completely at home in its setting, its grand majesty respectfully preserved in a unique marriage of history and modernity that is truly ‘surprisingly different’.
The fort now begins a new legacy, forged in exceptional facilities and unforgettable experiences. Generously appointed guest rooms come with all the modern comforts and conveniences, including expansive bathrooms, footed/built-in bathtubs and large daybeds. The library, set amidst old marble pillars, bears testimony to the old kingdom with the size of its holdings mapped out on the wall, and Spa Alila, carved out between granite rocks in the old dungeon, provides atmospheric settings for relaxation.
F&B options are excitingly varied and are a veritable treasure hunt. Turrets, cellars and secret passages have been turned into bars, lounges and creative spaces for dining and meetings. The royal living quarters are now the indoor specialty restaurant Amarsar. Nazaara, an outdoor grill dining terrace dishes out Rajput and frontier cuisine which involves sand-pit cooking and smoked meats. Madhuveni is where you find the cigar/cognac turret. The room still retains openings in its thick stone wall for muskets and for pouring out hot, boiling oil on intruding armies below. These have been kept open to promote a natural system of air-conditioning. And finally, the Kachhawa Lounge, where the secret royal escape route was found, now serves the 4 Cs – champagne, coffee, chai and cakes. A grand banquet hall, conference room and show kitchen/event dining space round off the banqueting experience.
The food concept and menus are innovatively curated by the renowned Chef Ranveer Brar, to bring back the older ways of cooking on open fire and in hot sand where food gets slow cooked in its own juices. Simple, fresh and artisanal with a throw-back to tradition are the operating mantras at Alila Fort Bishangarh.
Meanwhile, down the hill is the Haveli, offering a labyrinth of spaces to chill,, including a pool, bar, fitness centre, luxurious banquet lawns, and Play Alila – Kids’ Club - with separate areas for teenagers and toddlers. For that connection with Mother Nature, there’s an organic garden, a fruit orchard and a greenhouse set up amidst the ravines as well as various green lounging areas to explore.
A work of passion and endurance spanning almost a decade, the rebirth of this historic fort into the stunning Alila Fort Bishangarh provides an architecturally and historically rich experience for guests, encompassing fun, indulgence, discovery, and respect for the past. A walk through the broad corridors (deliberately left open to let the breeze in) with granite stones peeping out every here and there; where standing in the courtyard, one can gaze up at the open sky to have the sun warm your face or enjoy the rain… there is a quiet sense of tranquility and reverence that can be felt … a feeling of the utmost privilege to have arrived.